The Highland Festival is a celebration of basketball, community collaboration, and the community for which it’s named. In honor of its 30th year, organizers are ramping up this week-long celebration by providing resources for children and adults in the community alongside the yearly festival’s basketball tournament.
Events started Monday, July 8, and will culminate with the titular festival, held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, July 13 at the Erwin Community Center, 913 N. Pryor St., Gastonia.
The tournament is held 6 to 10 p.m. nightly Monday through Friday at the Highland School of Technology, 1600 N. Morris St., Gastonia. Specialty games include a women’s game, an alumni game (Ashbrook versus Hunter Huss), and the “Legend’s Game.”
“It’s a pretty good thing. Everybody looks forward to it,” said Highland Festival Planning Committee Chair Pete Dingle. This is Dingle’s 27th year attending the festival, and he helped to revive it after a two year hiatus.
The festival has become a beloved community tradition. In fact, Tasha White, the vendor and sponsorship chair of the festival’s planning committee, can remember the festival as part of her childhood.
“I went to junior high in this community. It’s such a strong sense of pride for me. I want people, whether they’re transplants or have lived here, I want them to have the same excitement for this community,” she said. “I want to make sure my kids experience what I did.”
With that attitude, organizers planned a camp for kids from Monday to Friday, during which time children from ages 7 to 17 were offered workshops on career readiness, entrepreneurship and investment, as well as sports activities.
While the kids were in camp, organizers shifted their focus to the adults. New this year were free adult workshops held Tuesday through Thursday on everything from entrepreneurship to health insurance.
“We’re trying to bring the community together and to bring the city together, then the county,” said co-chair Findland Fair. This is his 12th year as part of the festival.
The festival started in 1989 as a way to bring the Highland community together and have a little friendly competition between neighborhoods. Over the years, it’s evolved into the week-long affair it is today and honors Gastonia’s rich history in basketball.
“It’s part of the history of the community,” said Dingle.
Professional players and coaches hailing from the Highland community include Leonard Hamilton, James Worthy, Eric “Sleepy” Floyd and Darrell Armstrong hailing from the Highland community alone. Other Gastonia greats include Thomas “Bubba” Wilson and Hassan Whiteside.
The day of the festival will be packed with events, like a showcase of local choirs, 16 local artists performing, DJ Ace I. Rockwell, a fashion show, and vendors to shop among.
“We have a number of things going on,” said Dingle. “There’s a little something for everyone.”